In 2013, the Open Society Foundations will conclude its Arts and Culture Program. The program’s closure is part of a new approach to how the Foundations will support the role of arts and culture in building and strengthening open societies around the world. The Arts and Culture Program is no longer considering project proposals for funding.
Established in 1999, the Arts and Culture Program has worked in Central and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Turkey and Mongolia. Through grant making and operational activities, the Arts and Culture Program has worked at the nexus of arts, culture, human rights and social advocacy.
In the Caucasus and Central Asia the program worked to strengthen alternative and independent artistic endeavors that connect directly to core open society values. A particular emphasis was placed on collaboration between national and local level activities as well as between different countries, especially where ethnic tensions constrain most forms of cross-border cooperation.
From 2006, the Arts and Culture Program partnered with Hivos, a Dutch international development organization. In collaboration with HIVOS, many cultural and arts organizations in Central Asia were supported, among them the One World Human Rights Documentary Film Festival in Kyrgyzstan; the Didor Film Festival in Tajikistan, the region’s only Persian-language film festival; and ArtEast, which supported the development of contemporary art in Kyrgyzstan and helped bridge the gap between younger and older artists.
The Arts and Culture Program’s Roma-related work sought to strengthen Roma participation in artistic and cultural life, enhance collaboration between Roma and non-Roma, and challenge stereotypes. Highlights of the program’s Roma work include the Roma Mentor Project, which brought together successful Roma intellectuals with mixed groups of elementary school students in five countries and, along with partners, the launch of the first two Roma Pavilions at the Venice Biennale in 2007 and 2011, which aimed to foster a positive and self assured Roma identity.
As part of a long-term cooperation with the European Cultural Foundation, the Arts and Culture Program contributed to many pan-European cultural initiatives. One project, the Balkan Incentive Fund for Culture, supports collaborative artistic and cultural projects that strengthen relations across borders in the Western Balkans and between the Balkan region and the rest of Europe. Another project, STEP Beyond Travel Grants, helps emerging artists and cultural workers explore and exchange views, skills, and inspiration by enabling them to travel in and outside the European Union.
The Open Society Foundations recognize the hugely important contribution the Arts and Culture Program and its many grantees and partners have made over the years in the advancement of human rights and open society through arts and culture. The Open Society Foundations continue to value the role arts and culture can play in advancing open society and will endeavor to offer selected support to the field through its different programs and regional and national foundations.